Need advice on ski vacation

I am at heart a New England skier - I love the narrow treelined steeps - and if it’s bumped up all the better. I also like out of the way places that don’t get too many crowds - the modern lifts don’t mean that much to me - yea a high speed quad is great but if you actually need such a lift you have too many skiers there in the first place.

My wife OTOH loves skiing out west she likes wide open slopes and likes modern lifts although she can do w/o a gondola or tram as she hates taking her skies off. She likes places that doesn’t require a car - so it’s either on mountain or resort shuttle.

We have been on both ski vacations but due to where we live (NY) it has been unfairly slanted to N.E. areas. I would like to know your suggestions of a good place to go that would satisfy her needs:
1 no car rental needed
2 wide open slopes
3 Hi Opal - you got any suggestions?
4 Not in the eastern US (or S.E. Canada - I tried that one already :frowning: )
5 modern facilities
6 overall great snow conditions

And satisfying as many of my wishes
1 challenging terrain
2 Not being too close to another area that I might be tempted to go to (unless there is a shuttle).
3 a more rustic part of the mountain that has slopes that are not perfectly contoured constant gradient.

And the biggie… we have to be able to go as cheap as possible.

So far we are considering the US&Canadian rockies, CA, adn even the Alps (though we really don’t want to go to such a high elevation) as general areas to start looking. Anyone got any suggestions for a great place that fits the bill?

Utah has great powder… A nice (well, it was at one time anyway) area in Wyoming is Targhee- On the west side of the Tetons; nice runs there too.

Went to Utah (Park City, Atla, Solitude, The Canyons) Was great but I must say I loved Alta but there is no place to stay close enough and w/in budget. Going to the other places would be too much of a tease being so close.

Wyoming is a possibility - got any suggestions where to stay?

Why don’t you stay in NY and go to Whiteface in Lake Placid, that’s where I’m from.

I’d look at Summit County Colorado, there are several nice areas there, Keystone, A-Basin, Breckenridge, Copper. You can take a bus from Denver to the ski areas, you’ll probably want slopeside or close by lodging as well, right?
Steamboat Springs would be another good area.

In Utah, you can stay in SLC and take the bus up the canyons each day to one of 4 ski areas. Alta is my personal fav, besides the wonderful snow they don’t allow snowboards.

You should also look at some places in Washington State, like Crystal or Stevens Pass.

In the Lake Tahoe area, look at Sugar Bowl up in Donner Pass.

Out west you’ll find a lot less groomed terrain, unless you go to a place like Park City. There are a lot of trees and terrain that doesn’t look like a ski slope but there are all sorts of tracks heading in. Stay slopeside, and have lunch in your condo to save money.

Skiing in Colorado is often higher elevations than the Alps. A-Basin has the top lift at 12K, which can be a bear on the first day.

I would suggest Steamboat or Vail as being closest to your qualifications, The big question is what exactly you mean by challenging terrain. Steamboat is a much cheaper Apres ski environment. Vail can be extremely expensive to stay and eat and shop close to the mountain. However it does have a very vide range of terrain. Vail does have a better run shuttle system, The ski town is pretty much designed for it. Steamboat does have shuttles and busses, but not quite as convientiently. Steamboat’s bigest limitation is the lack of top level terrain. It obviously has great blacks, and a couple that might qualify as double blacks. However, if your capable of Warren Miller type stuff nothing is really gonna get your heart racing (If there’s enough snow ‘the chutes’ are pretty good, but a large part of the time there is more rock and tree than snow, so you can’t count on it.)

Jackson hole has some damn nice challenges, but I never treid the city without a car, so I can’t comment on that aspect.

Portillo! Not the cheapest, but you will be transformed. It is entirely above treeline and you can ski anywhere - extreme rock chutes, three hour hikes past the lifts. No lift lines, great food, great service. They will pick you up at the airport in Santiago and shuttle you two and a half hours to the resort for 50 bucks each way. Check out the daily conditions at their website - they get dumped on all season long. There is no other resort nearby, but even if there were, you probably wouldn’t be tempted.

clayton_e - True the ‘Dacks’ are really their own mountain range with their own feel. I personally love Whiteface and you can get some pretty darn cheep - but very nice lodging there - I guess they just don’t have the people to charge top dollar. But this is not the vacation my wife is looking for.

Telemark we have been to Steamboat and A-Basin (and one other that has a sub-mountain called ‘Mary Jane’ - Maybe Brek? - Very nice areas but we might like to look into places we havn’t been (Copper, Loveland, Keystone). We are looking for either on the mountain lodging or a nearby resort shuttle.

Utah is the other place we’ve been - Alta rocks - I have never seen such intresting terrain. My fav (but i’ve only been there 1x) is a trail that had cliffs on both sides you can get it from the upper lift that goes off the the right while looking at the trail map. I think the limited lodging at alta would be out of our budget and not modern enough for my wife.

We were considering Washington and Lake Tahoe area.

A-Basin has the top lift at 12K, which can be a bear on the first day


I was under the assmuption that the ski areas in the Alps were generally higher - am I wrong?

wolfman I have skied most areas in the Northeast (Gore is my most noticable exception) and can handle 95% of the terain w/o any trouble (when it’s a sheet of ice that’s another story). My Fav trail is Rumble at Sugarbush and I have Skied Tuckerman Ravien. Paradise Glades at Mad River Glen give me some pause.

Steamboat was a pain in the @$$ when it comes to accessing that terrain. YOu had to take at lease 2 lifts, maybe 3 to get to it + the lifts were nowhere near each other. And when your get there the steeps at the top are very short. When Your done you have to walk out back to the slope - FOR 1 RUN. - A big hint - Never try to ski around the mountain to the right instead of walking out to the left - it doesn’t work. As for the rocks - remember I ski the east and very used to skiing around the rocks - just open the trail and stick a ‘thin cover sign’ at the top. Vail is out of our price range.

To save cash, ski in Canada. Your $100 dollars is worth well over $150 dollars here.

I’m assuming that you are not into the back-county hut or tent thing, so your best bet for cheap accommodation is get into a small unoccupied chalet and cook your own meals. The cheapest accommodation of this sort is found at the largest resorts where there are a high number of chalets unoccupied at any given time due to foreign ownership.

Your best bet in that respect is Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia, which also has more than enough terrain to keep both you and your wife happy (including a fair number of challenging pitches which intersect with wide open ones, so you can both have your jollies without losing track of each other). At over 7,000 skiable acres, you won’t get bored. It is a massive resort with a huge amount of challenging terrain. Many would say that it is the top resort in the world, but obviously that’s pretty subjective. What is not subjective is that it is one of the few hills in North America set up for World Cup downhill, and at any given time is inhabited by quite a few high level training squads. Fly to Vancouver, hop the train or the bus, and walk to slope side or take a shuttle from anywhere in town. The only down side is that for snow conditions, be prepared for Pacific glop on occasion. If your wife is into groomed runs and you are into bumps, then that won’t be a problem, but if you are into snorkelling through the trees, this often is not the place to be unless you have strong knees. Here’s what Warren Miller has to say about it:

If you are after less heavy snow, head inland to Lake Louise in Alberta. There is still huge amount of terrain which would please both of you, however, there are fewer chalets, so finding a great deal on accommodation will be more difficult. If either of you are into steep bowl skiing, you’d enjoy the backside of this place. In any event, they have lots and lots of terrific groomed runs, and lots and lots of secluded bump runs. A few high end training squads work out of Lake Louise, and it too handles World Cup events. Fly in to Calgary, and hop a bus to Lake Louise, or shuttle in from the delightful village of Banff daily. Ski Magazine has rated it top in the world for scenery, and the London Telegraph poll rated it number one ski resort in the world. Warren Miller rates it number eight in the world, and “ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES ON EARTH.”
If staying at a mega-resort is not your thing, there are a number of smaller resorts in the interior of Alberta and B.C. which might be of interest where you can save cash by staying at a bed and breakfast. Silver Star in the interior of B.C. (read powder, powder, powder) is a good place for this. Still an excellent variety of terrain, and pretty much guaranteed powder. This was a regional hill which in the last few years has been tying to break into the big leagues of international destination resorts, so they are very price competitive. Here are some highlights they are proud of (and bear in mind that they are competing with some extremely fine resorts):

Finally, you didn’t mention if the two of your are into deep, steep powder skiing in big tree and bowl country. If you are, check out Fernie, British Columbia, for true snorkel skiing. It’s hard to describe the amount and quality of whisper-light powder they get there. Truly remarkable snow. There is a seemingly unending amount of off-piste skiing, with the only hitch being that due to so much fresh fluff there are often avalance problems. As far as facilities go, they have a convenience store, and if you are really travelling in style, some winterized RV hookups. (Yes, there are a few chalets, but really it is just an old mining town which died and left behind some ski bums.) To quote from the Fernie site: “Of the three corners of south-eastern BC’s so-called powder triangle of Fernie, Whitewater and Red Mountain, Fernie Alpine Resort is perhaps most recognizable as a modern ski area.” I figure the reason it is difficult to recognize that it is a ski resort is that it is usually too burried under snow to be recognized as anything. Someday someone will spot this place for what it is and turn it into a mega-resort, but for now it is a quiet little backwater which is a Mecca for steep and deep skiers who are too tired at the end of a day of snorkeling to care about anything other than sleep. Sounds to me like the rustic quality would not be what your wife is after, but keep it in mind if she ever gets interested in powder skiing.

Good luck,
Richard “Muffin” Culpeper
Past member, Canadian National Ski Team, Telemark Division

Lots of good advice, but I’m still gonna do my “me too.” Jackson Hole as it all, and Targhee is right there, too. Tahoe has a lot of options, as well (so does Salt Lake/Ogden, too, but with the Olympics, you don’t want to mess with that.)

3 out of 5 times, I’d go to Jackson. In fact, I have (well, 3 out of 14, but still.) :smiley:

Regarding the lack of facilites at Fernie - they’ve actually improved a great deal in the last few years - I stayed there for New Year 2000 in one of the new condos - it was great - right on the hill, amenities, restaraunts, hot tub, etc, etc.

They’ve done ALOT of development there recently.

Your take on the snow, however, is correct. I managed to concuss myself at Fernie on the same trip because my legs were so tired from the powder!

It gets my vote all the way. Acutally, Sunshine Village is nice too -

If you want cheap, skip Sunshine (where you gonna stay other than Banff?). Do check out Fernie or Red Mountain (Rossland) or any of the mountians in the BC Kootenays. My best suggestion is to hit a few. Silver Star is nice, and Vernon is an affordable town. The exchange works in your favor, the drive is only a few hours more than Banff, Jasper or any other over-run tourist destinations (not that they are like that by accident, mind you). As for Whistler having it all, include expensive restaurants, way too many displaced tourists all wearing the same damn ski suit, and a death-trap highway for access. A hell of a hill off-peak, mid-week, during school.

These hills should all be easily accessed from Seatle or Vancouver (with a bit of winter driving) or from Calgary (best bet).

On hill condos with hot tubs? Fernie? You’ve just made my week!

Muffin knows her stuff. Listen to her.

I grew up in Washington and skiied mostly at Crystal, Steven’s Pass, and the Snoqualmie Pass(mostly at Alpental). All great resorts but you will absolutely need a car.

If you go to Crystal, stay at the Silver Skis Chalet(cheap and pleasant). It is right at the foot of the mountain(you can ski to your room) and has a giant heated outdoor swimming pool that is open until late at night. The upper lifts there are awesome(I have had the best days of my life at Crystal). There is plenty of double-black diamond backcountry and a mountain top cafeteria with the best view of Mt. Rainier you will ever, ever see. Wide open slopes for the missuz and plenty of expert terrain for yourself(K2 Face is my favorite). There are always lines but never over a two minute wait.

If you go to Steven’s Pass stay either at one of the new hotels at the base or in Leavenworth(Small town 10 mins. away with Swiss Alps theme, very quaint). Seventh Heaven is the lift you’ll be riding all day. The name says it all.

There are a few new hotels at the base of Alpental at the Snoqualmie Pass. Alpental is a very serious mountain, very little kiddie stuff. The upper lift(Chair 17, but I still call it Chair 2 - Eidelwiess, because they changed the names about 10 years ago) is all double black diamond and will keep you on your toes all day. They also have a run named after me which I thought was very cool as a child.

I recommend Whistler because of everything Muffin said. This resort is huge. Just huge. The great thing about Whistler-Blackcomb is that if you get bored of Whistler you can always go to Blackcomb. You’ll spend all day on the Glacier. There used to be an indoor/outdoor waterslide park I went to as a kid at night when everything was quiet and still, but they tore it down and probably built a stupid Starbuck’s over it.

I worked for a year in Park City, a lifty at Deer Valley, which is wonderful if you don’t mind shelling out $20 bucks an entree at every meal. 4/5ths of the mountain is perfectly manicured every night. I also worked at Breeze Ski Rentals at Park City. I don’t recommend either right now or anytime this coming season because they are prepping for the Olympics and prices will be outrageous.

Mt. Bachelor in central Oregon is very nice as well. Snow conditions are somewhat more predictable than Whistler as it is usually drier, like that of Wyoming, Colorado, or Utah. You might have problems without a rental car though. Prices could be a little excessive.

If you want the best snow in the whole world go to Jackson Hole in Wyoming. If you want the best overall go to Whistler, BC. If you want to be pampered go to Deer Valley, Utah. If you want great service, snow, and little or no lines whatsoever, go anywhere in Montana, but you might need a car. I don’t know if there are shuttles to any of the resorts there. But prices in Montana are guaranteed to be dirt cheap and the snow will be incredible. All the different terrain you could ask for.

Have fun!

I lived in Salt Lake City for four years, and the skiing was great! Also, I think that Utah is underrated, so the skiing is much less crowded and the costs of staying cheaper than they should be. Unfortunately for you, that’s likely to change this winter, with the winter Olympics being there and all.

Where you should go depends in part on your level of skill and your preferences. Brighton Ski Bowl is in Big Cottonwood Canyon, the same one as Soltitude, and the accommodations when I lived there were pretty inexpensive. The slopes aren’t as challenging as Snowbird or Park City, which is probably why they weren’t as expensive. A nice quiet place, and the stars are gorgeous at night. I have no idea how much the Olympics will directly affect these places. The places in Little Cottonwood – Snowbird and Alta – are more expensive and I think that events are scheduled for there. Ditto for Park City and the ski places there.

If you go to the ski places near Provo or north of SLC you might have better luck, as they’re less likely to be directly involved in Olympics, plus it’ll be easier to stay outside of SLC. I’m betting Redford’s place at Sundance will be getting more of the local skiers this year (trying to avoif the Olympic crowds) than usual. Keep them in mind for next year and beyond.

Take all of this with more thana grain of salt – I haven’t been in SLC in years, and I don’t know what the plans are. Contact these places via phone or the internet to find out what their expectations are for use and crowds. You can always try the ski places around Seattle – I think they’re underappreciated, too, and they’re a long wayfrom the Olympics.

I second (third?) the suggestion for Whistler-Blackcomb. I’m not really much of a skier, well I love it, but I basically suck at it, but Whistler was the greatest thing I’ve ever experienced with snow. Love it, love it.

Muffin Canada is looking better. I personally would love Whisler-Blackcomb but my wife has been there and we are looking for a place neither of us has been - Yea I know I am making this more complex all the time.

Lake Louise looks like a strong possibliity Silver Star looks good too though it looks more like an eastern resort just looking at the trail map but I could be very happy at the putanam creek area but w/ only one lift there doesn’t it get crowded there?

Fernie looks insane - it looks like the place I would move to if I could afford to and get a lifetime pass - all this from a trail map - If I can find a good lodging deal and a better trail map (To make sure there is stuff for both of us) - I’m pushing for this one. But I really want to cater to my wife’s wants on this vacation.

think snow (one of the coolest user names around :wink: )J.H. is still an outside possibility - my wife has been there but it was a long time ago - so It’s still in the running. I must admit I don’t know too much about Targhee. Lake Tahoe is in the running but so far Canada has a slight edge.

Alice_i_w I’m glad to here there is some more rooms at the Fernie in and thanks for the S.V. link - You got to love a site that asks you IF you want to see their flash intro - it gets some points just for that.

kylen My overall ski stradigy in the east is to pick a town in the middle of several areas to give me choices and variaty. It is not uncommon for my to drive 1-2 hrs from the ski town to an area that is further then the rest just to have that variety. This is what we have been doing for the past 3 seasons with rare excpetion - I need a place that requires no driving to and from the resort. Red Mountain I’ve never heard of - so it’s worth a look but is there lodging w/ shuttle service or on mountain?

wishbone No car (well maybe it would be needed from the airport to the resort but it stays parked there till we’re ready to leave. Actually I really don’t want a car since it wouold be too tempting to drive to the next resort - just to see what it’s like.)

If Silver Skis is at the foot of the mtn - why do you absoultly need a car? Crystal sounds like a possibility. Is it in Washington state? Even though I could probabally be able to give you directions to almost all N.E. ski areas
from memory (with road #'s, landmarks, and any shortcuts) - my knowledge of western areas is very limited.

I’ll need to look up some info aboput Steven’s pas, Alpental and Snoqualime Pass. Eidelwiess At lease I’ve heard of.

Utah is out this year

We have been looking into big sky though - lift ticks seem a little pricy though - if the lodging is cheep it might be worth it.


After 1 day at Alta I have to agree on that one alone

Airfare alone to SLC will put it out of our price range - so that’s out for this year.

Soda Thanks but as I mentioned W-B is not the best option for now.

I was at Banff this past Feb and it was really great.

  1. its Canada, you save 30% right off the bat before figuring in multi-day discounts. I seem to recall paying about $450 for 5 nights hotel, plus 5-day lift tickets/shuttle passes. Wait, that might have included a rental car too (not normally needed, but we arrived in the middle of the night) It costs $56/day in Tahoe just to ski!
  2. There are 2 large resorts (Sunshine Village & Lake Louise) plus a small “townie” hill (I can’t remember what its called) all are acessable by the tri-resort pass which includes unlimited rides on the ski shuttles. ANY of the booking organizations (skilouise and many others) provide these passes. You can also buy them when you get there.
    Sunshine offers wide open runs on Lookout Mountain and steeper narrower runs on Goat’s Eye. It is famous for its massive natural snowfall (100" or more/year). LL offers some of every type of terrain, and snowmaking.
    3)You can walk from one end of Banff to the other in 20 minutes, tops, and if you are too lazy for that there’s a little in-town bus service, plus numerous inexpensive cabs.
    4)Lake Louise Ski Friends program is so cool (same program under a different name at Sunshine). Locals will guide you to the types of runs you want without having to search out the terrain that you prefer. They know the day to day conditions of most or all of the runs. (“Watch out for a patch of ice coming up on the left!” “Snowmaking to your right about half way down” “let’s do GoatChicken – there’s no moguls today” etc. )And its free!
    5)Ski magazine rates Lake Louise Gold in Terrain, Challenge and Value. It is the #1 resort in Scenery. It can be a little icy, but being from the east you’ll wonder what everyone’s bitching about. Nothing compared to a Gore Mountain, for example.
    6)It is off the charts beautiful. Several times I had to actually stop skiing in order to stare, open-mouthed, at the scenery.
    7)3,150 vertical feet! 4,000 acres!
    8)Quite a bit closer to East Coast than Whistler, not as much time difference. If you are a frequent flyer, NW has cash and miles deals that cannot be beat (last year I paid $168 + 10,000 miles.)

the con:
1)Since the mountains are located in a national park, staying on mountain is not really allowed. Sunshine has a small motel on the property. The ski shuttles stop at every hotel in Banff though.
2)It can be cold. Don’t forget to layer.
Here’s a thought: SkiDope at Lake Louise in Feb! Who’s in??


That sounds great - where did you stay and is that USA or Can ?

The icyness as you mentioned we call packed powder here - but my wife wants the real stuff - ‘snow from heaven not from hoses’ (I personally love those hoses)

So far Lake Louise is way out in front.

That was USD. I went during “regular” season which is the second most expensive time of year. You can see some sample prices for different times of year at:
(at those prices, me and my skipal Meredith vowed we would stay the whole week – 9 days – this season, with a day off at the hot springs :slight_smile: ) Each hotel has slightly different prices and its kind of confusing. I would recommend calling Resorts of the Canadian Rockies and telling them what you’d like to do. Or try a outfitter like in case they have special deals.

I shared a room with a friend, we stayed at the Inns of Banff. It had nice amenities (outdoor hot tub, in hotel ski shop, helpful staff, roomy rooms) but it is the very last hotel on the “strip” of Banff hotels. On the one hand that made it quiet, and our room had a great view. On the other, we are 20-something chix and it was a bit of a stagger home when the bars closed. :slight_smile: It is also not dripping with “charm” if that matters. (it is more charming than the motels in South Lake Tahoe, though). Just a nice, functional place to stay. With a outdoor hottub. I’ve heard that the Banff Springs Hotel is very nice, but its quite a bit more expensive. Personally, I’d rather ski an extra day than stay in a fancy hotel, but YMMV.

I think we targeted the Banff Caribou Lodge for our next trip. It has similar amenities (no ski shop tho) & cost but is more centrally located. And has a good steak restaurant in the lobby. mmmmm, protein.

The first time I skied on soft, fresh snow (it was at Stowe) I was all, “what’s all this white stuff on top of the groomed ice!?” and I kept falling. Pretty funny, actually. You won’t see much true sheet ice at LL, but some patches of hardpack & some gravelly snow, depending on the weather. Barring unforeseen winter drought, your wife should have fun at Sunshine.